Dating Coach & Relationship Expert for Professional Women, Author of, How to Find A Quality Guy, & Host of "Life Check Yourself" Podcast.
My Guest For Today
When navigating life, especially the dating world, one of the first things that you need to think about is how to set appropriate boundaries.
To help you with this delicate concept, I am sharing an episode of Life Check Yourself Podcast (edited for publication), with licensed psychotherapist, global empowerment & relationship expert & author of Boundary Boss, Terri Cole.
Main Points Covered
- What are Boundaries?
- Why some People Struggle with Setting Boundaries?
- Overcorrection as a Long-Term Consequence of Not Setting Boundaries
- Setting Boundaries 101: Self Assessment
- Identifying the Root Cause
- Consequences of Not Setting Boundaries
- Identifying Your Boundaries
- Types of Boundary Crossers
- Reclaiming Your Power
- How to Set Boundaries
- Setting Boundaries When You're Single
- Red Flags to Watch Out For When Dating
- Do Not Touch My Phone Boundary
What Are Boundaries?
Marni Battista: How do you define setting a boundary or a healthy boundary?
Terri Cole: Think of boundaries as your own personal rules of engagement.
- They're guidelines that you set in order to let other people know what's okay and what's not okay with you.
- They're specifically made up of your preferences, your desires, your limits, and your deal breakers.
- They tell the truth about how you feel, what you want and don't want and by that they liberate you. They allow you to live a more authentic life.
- Setting Boundaries is not just knowing your preferences, desires, limits and deal breakers, it's also being able to communicate them with clarity.
There are two pieces of setting boundaries: one is knowing and the other is expressing.
— Marni Battista
Why Some People Struggle With Setting Boundaries?
Marni Battista: So there are two pieces of setting boundaries: one is knowing and the other is expressing...Why do you think that from a very young age we struggle with this? Is it because we don't know we don't set them? or is it that we just don't want to set them?
- It goes all the way back to home training. How many people were raised to be a good girl? Everybody… In my family it was very important that people perceived me as being nice and generous. So most of us were raised and praised for being self-abandoning codependence which would mean you have disordered boundaries. You say yes when you want to say no in order to be perceived as nice.
- We got corrupted data because we were taught the nicer you are the more self-sacrificing you are and the more giving you are the better you are, which creates a twisted sense of self and a twisted sense of value and worth.
- The language of boundaries is just like learning a foreign language. To speak French, you need a great teacher and you need to spend some time learning. This is why I wrote the book, Boundary Boss, as a guide because just like French, how would you know it, if nobody taught you.
We got corrupted data because we were taught the nicer you are the more self-sacrificing you are and the more giving you are the better you are, which creates a twisted sense of self and a twisted sense of value and worth.
— Terri Cole
Overcorrection as a Long-Term Consequence of Not Setting Boundaries
Marni Battista: It's so complicated. I don't even really know if I ever attempted to set boundaries when I was younger, but whenever I did something that I felt was right for me, I was accused of being selfish... What's interesting is my overcorrection is and will always still be overdelivering and overserving.
- Over giving and over functioning, are results of not wanting to be accused of selfishness. If you were raised as a woman from a more heteronormative, let's say, point of view, and if the highest virtue was being nice and generous, over correction makes total sense.
- What ends up happening with over giving, over delivering and over functioning is that we become bitter and we become burnt out.
- I think it's fine to deliver with my highest ability in business. I'm talking about interpersonal relationships where we're doing things for others that they can and should be doing for themselves.
Setting Boundaries & Self Assessment
Marni Battista: So when you think about the changing context of today's world, what is an appropriate definition or differentiation between boundaries? What is healthy selfishness? What is selfishness?
- Part of it is communication, learning to talk true, so the people in your life can trust you...Communication is crucial, instead of harboring resentment and acting in a passive aggressive manner.
- If something happens and you're wondering if this person is being selfish or just taking care of herself/himself, it's now I ask you to get back on your own side of the street and ask yourself why am I reacting this way.
- If my friend said that she would do this thing with me on Sunday and then she's decided that Sunday is going to be self-care day instead. I'm still disappointed that she ditched our plans for self-care. So what do I need to do? I need to share that with my friend, saying for example "Hey, I get that self-care is important but I have to be honest and say I was really looking forward to seeing you and I am disappointed. In the future, I would rather you keep your word to me because we both have tight schedules".
- You've got to take responsibility for knowing what you want, so we can move out of the judgment zone (like who's right and who's wrong). Being a Boundary Boss is taking responsibility for how we feel, what we think, what we want.
Your Relationship to Yourself
- If people have repeated bad experiences in love, friendships or relationships in general, I always say, let's go back to your relationship with yourself because how you treat you, influences how you invite others to treat you and talk about you.
- If we talk very badly about ourselves and if you have this low opinion of yourself, you will without a doubt attract others who agree with you.
- Your relationship to yourself, the amount of self-respect, self-love and self-worth sets the bar for every other relationship in your life whether you want it to or not, whether you know it or not and that's the reality.
- So when people are outwardly focused, I always direct them to check the inside too. Let's look at how you are referring to yourself, how you are talking to yourself. When you make a mistake, what is your relationship with you? Are you super mean to yourself? Do you call yourself bad names? Do you have these crazy expectations for yourself so that you can't enjoy your level of success.
Your relationship to yourself, the amount of self-respect, self-love and self-worth sets the bar for every other relationship in your life whether you want it to or not, whether you know it or not and that's the reality.
— Terri Cole
Identifying the Root Cause
Marni Battista: When you are setting a boundary and we feel like we have put our need on trial, or assume that setting boundaries will result in a conflict... How do you set boundaries in a measured, true-telling and soft way?
Terri Cole: Well, it's funny you say that you don't want to be the lawyer, I always say, you don't have to write a dissertation about your "no".
- You're allowed to sometimes say, "I don't feel like doing that thing" and that is literally a legitimate reason. It's perfectly legitimate for me to say, "I'm not that into that kind of music" or "I don't like outside concerts" or "I would love to see you next Wednesday just the two of us for lunch, but I'm not into the group thing."
- The reason I broke it down into preferences, desires, limits and deal breakers is because not all boundaries are the same. Preferences are nice to have, deal breakers are a must have. So there's a spectrum of those things.
- Back to your question, how do you do it with ease and grace? Part of it is you've got to work out the downloaded boundary blueprint that you got in childhood. You’ve got to know why you are relating to boundaries this way? Why do you feel like you want to write a dissertation on your "No"? Maybe because you're so afraid of rejection, others disapproval or conflict... Your goal in life cannot be to avoid conflict... Continuously walking on eggshells is exhausting.
Consequences of Not Drawing the Line
Marni Battista: But this is really huge. So if we're living our life constantly avoiding conflict, what ends up happening to the boundary blueprint? Does it get more set? Does it become worse? Do we become incapable of setting boundaries? like what's the trajectory? and is there any point you're like, "ah, it's too late"?
I think that there's a lot of ways that we can make excuses because it's a heavy lift and maybe you don't want to do the work or you don't know how. But I don't think it's ever too late.
- If you don’t do the work, however, you will become a martyr, even if you said you wouldn't. You will be the bean counter. You will make people feel guilty. You will think in your mind, "After all I've done for you".
- What you're really talking about with these kinds of disordered boundaries is some sort of external validation or seeking peacekeeping. But there's no space in that for you and your uniqueness.
- If you don't tell people how you feel, if you say yes when you really want to say no, if you do things that make you feel resentful because others want you to, what you're really doing is you're giving corrupted data to the people in your life. They don't authentically know you and how can anyone authentically love you, if you never allow them to authentically know you, or if you don't authentically know yourself.
How to Identify Your Boundaries?
Marni Battista: So let's talk about the the basics of the how, and what you think needs to come first. I know you said that we have to treat ourselves how we want to be treated, so what's next? l
Do a Resentment Inventory
- So you got to get clear about where you need a boundary. To identify your boundaries, you should do a resentment inventory.
- Think about where are you holding on to something about someone. This usually means a boundary has been crossed and the other person might not even know it, especially if you haven't said it, because they can't read your mind. It could also be that a need of yours is going unmet.
Listen to Your Body
You also know when a boundary has been crossed because the wisdom of your body is undeniable.
- Whether you freeze in the moment and can't do anything about it, have a constriction in your chest or throat, or feel a flash of heat in your face, that's your body trying to warn you that a boundary has been crossed.
Types of Boundary Crossers
Let's say, I'm really angry at my sister for taking the key to my apartment and borrowing something of mine that I looked for for two weeks. So, I have to say something to her.... But here's the thing, people fall into categories in terms of boundaries:
Boundary First Timers:
- If you've never said anything to your sister about not using your key without letting you know, the truth is if you have not spoken up, she is a boundary first timer.
How to Deal with Boundary First Timers:
- In that scenario, you have to have a conversation. You could say, "we need to talk"...You also don't want to put people on the defensive and to do that, think of this conversation as making a simple request, rather than a confrontation...
Repeat Offenders or Boundary Destroyers:
- If you talk and she doesn't ever seem to listen, and she does it again....
How to Deal with Boundary Destroyers:
- Then you have at some point to add some kind of a consequence. There's got to be consequences and you have to say, and I don't mean threaten and I'm not really talking about ultimatums unless you are actually at the take it or leave it moment, but with a sister you could say “hey, this is really upsetting to me and I really feel disrespected by it. If it happens again, I'm taking back my key, and I feel like I have to. I don't want to take it back, so please remember the next time to ask me”.
- The thing that people want, which is impossible though, is that they want to never have that "boundary" conversation again. But the truth is, you are probably gonna have to have it again and again. I don't mean every day for the rest of your life, but keep in mind, especially with family or long-term relationships, we've been doing this particular boundary dance with them for a long time...
Setting Boundaries When You're Single
Marni Battista: … And I think that's a really big thing is that when you're setting boundaries, at the beginning, with people who have been dancing to that one song from the 70s, and you're like busting up some hip hop. They're like, "Wait, what? I liked it better the old way”. And sometimes you have to have a conversation about boundaries. I used to do it this way; "I know that was really dysfunctional, but we are used to it. And I know this might be hard for you that now that I'm taking care of myself”... This is a really interesting one for my single women who have been like perpetually single, since they're the person who can always stay late at work; the auntie who will always watch the kids or go stay at your house and feed your dog, when you go on a trip with your husband; the person other people rely on. It really disrupts behavior patterns... I remember a client who told me, "I want John (my colleague) to be able to go home early and have dinner with his family. I'm just gonna go home and watch Netflix". So how do you have people start to set boundaries even though have nothing more important to do?
- Well, part of it is you've got to look at what you're gaining from doing that. It may not be obvious gain, it could be secondary gain. Either way, you're gaining belonging, gaining a connection, you're someone people can rely on.
- But here's the thing, if it makes you feel diminished in some way, or if it makes you feel like you're in a sub role in your own life, then you have to really think about why you continue to do it. Just because you can do something, does not mean that you should do it.
Reclaiming Your Power
Marni Battista: Okay. Rewind. Hit that little rewind button. Listen to that one like four times, people. Just because you're available, does not mean you have to say "yes". I think this drives people to make things up or pretend to be busy, because they feel guilty. So I want you all to hear that one.
Practice Saying No:
If you've been an auto "yes" person, you start with not agreeing to anything. You start to say, "Oh, hey. Thanks for thinking of me." If it's an invite to something, you could say, "I have to check my calendar, check with my roommate, check with my friend or check with my partner and I'll get back to you."
Establish the Rules of Engagement:
- You should also start establishing the rules of your own engagement with others.
- If you've taught them that you're available 24/7 on your phone, stop and turn your phone off at night.
- If you've trained them that you get back in moments when someone texts, you maybe train them that it's going to be a longer period of time. Nobody needs to have 24/7 access to the backstage of your life.
- I think that it's a lot of fear-driven behavior around being so available and saying "yes". When you buy time and say, "I'm going to let you know about that", it's so much easier to come back and say no, when you haven't already said "yes".
- At the beginning, your language of boundaries won't be fluent. Your heart will be racing, you'll be sweating and it's okay.
- But when you start, you'll come to realize that nothing terrible happens, the world doesn't stop spinning and nobody bursts into flames. You'll come to realize that when you tell someone the truth, that person will be grateful...Being able to have honest conversations, even if they're not ones you would normally have, will change your life because you would be seen accurately and known authentically. You're so worth knowing. Your unique self is so incredibly worth knowing... At the end of your life, you will not be regretting not helping Bob frm accounting more...
Setting Boundaries in the Dating World
Marni Battista: And what's cool about what you just said is that you're creating peace externally at the cost of internal peace. What I love about boundaries and what you're saying is that it's the expression of yourself, and that people really do get to know you...For me, I thought that if I said "no", people will stop inviting me... We have very dear friends and they invite us a lot, But me and my husband, don't drink, and we always say "no". But when we said, “hey, let's do this but not that”, they were understanding. They understood our boundaries. The other thing I wanted to ask you because we have to talk specifically about some dating experiences... When a guy is texting me but not ever asking me out. We're just having this like ongoing conversation and he won't ask me out, what's the boundary? How do we set that up for ourselves?
Terri Cole: Well part of it is just your preference is to not have been like perpetually in the "pen-pal" zone and part of it is that you value your time... I feel like why do you have to wait for him to ask you out. Why not just say, "hey, as much as I enjoy getting to know you, I'd love to actually meet in real life to see if we're any kind of a good fit". You could also say, "It's been great getting to know you, let's get something on the calendar."
Marni Battista: I agree by the way... When you said you can ask them out. I think for a lot of you, "oh my god", but we're in a different time. When you say, "hey let's meet" or "let's video chat", it's not the same as saying, "Can I take you to dinner?". You'd be just saying, let's take this to the next level, not let me take you out on a date.
Setting boundaries in the dating world is also going to give you much relevant information about the other person. If someone you started dating tells you, "I'll call you Friday" and then they don't call. They text you Friday night, instead and they pretend like nothing happened. You have a choice, either collude with their fake reality or you say something like, "I thought you were getting in touch with me... I just figured you had a flaky moment. I hope you had a great day". You can mention it... And you can do these small things of pushing back a little bit and seeing how the person reacts. If that person considers you to be mean or demanding for expecting him to keep his word, then that's not your person.
Red Flags to Look Out For When Dating
Marni Battista: That's so true and that is such a great way to say it, because that guy or that friend or that person is in a reality where it doesn't matter and that's not your reality... But we're not gonna create consensus with that and I think this is a huge point and something not to be overlooked.... Men need to learn how to treat you.... And setting those boundaries early and often is going to show you the right person.
Terri Cole: It's also better to know in the first two months than learn two years into the relationship that you've wasted your youth and beauty with a person that doesn't want the same things as you.
To help you with that, here are some warning signs or red flags to look out for:
- He wants to be sexual too soon.
- He doesn't keep his word.
- He runs hot and cold especially with communication. One day, he's bombarding you with texts and then he ghosts you for a couple of days.
- He is rude to people in the service industry.
- He lacks meaningful long-term relationships (doesn't really have any friends that they've had for a long time which could be an indication of attachment issues).
- He blames others. He blames his ex or everyone for his problems.
- He is a bad listener. Ask yourself does he remember what you say? Is he just waiting for his turn to talk and bring the conversation back to him? That is what your rest of your life will look like. However, don't judge on the first date because he could be nervous.
- He is being overly secretive.
Do Not Look at My Phone Boundary:
Marni Battista: … So what do you think of the boundary around looking at someone's phone, whether it's a parent, a kid or someone you're dating?
- If the kid is a minor, then yes, as a concerned parent, I need to look at his/her phone.
- With someone you're dating, it depends whether this boundary is important for one of them or not. My husband and I, know how to get into each other's phone because it's not "a thing" for us, but I feel with younger people, it becomes a thing, especially if someone has had a history of infidelity.
- It's also important to note that everyone has a right to emotional and psychological privacy... For example, if you use your phone to write personal notes or a journal, then you have the right to protect their privacy.
- What we don't want to do is to snoop around in their mobile, when they're in the shower. Even if that exposes their lies or the truth, because that means they your are being secretive too. Find a better way to do this.
- You can also share with your partner your truth. You could say, "hey, I've had some bad experiences and I don't need to sift through. But if there's a "no touching your phone policy", it really triggers my insecurity from past painful experiences that I'm still working on."
Remember that setting boundaries is critical in all aspects of life, especially when navigating the dating world.
Boundaries do not necessarily bring about conflict, confrontation, heartache or dismay. In fact, it is the very lack of boundary-setting that bring those to the surface later in life.
© 2022 Marni Battista